Perhaps you haven’t given it a lot thought and even realized it, however I’m guessing you’ve gotten loved public lands. Maybe, you’ve gotten some nice reminiscences of tenting in one in all Florida’s award-winning state parks. Perhaps you took your youngster to hunt in one of many many Wildlife Administration Areas. You would possibly get your train by driving a mountain bike on a single-track path in a state forest or rack up your miles on one of many many “rails to trails” within the Sunshine State.
Talking of sunshine — while you desire a day on the seashore, perhaps you’re like me and like a pure seashore expertise with dunes, birds and open areas as an alternative of crowds, accommodations and excessive rises. Whether or not your ardour is birdwatching, tenting, looking, biking or mountain climbing, chances are high you’ve gotten used and loved public lands in Florida.
Floridians ought to be pleased with our previous dedication to defending land for public use. For a few years, Florida had one of the vital aggressive and profitable public land shopping for applications within the nation. Via the foresight of previous leaders and conservation organizations, we at the moment have about 9.6 million acres of state, federal and domestically owned public lands. That quantities to about 27% of our land space. Given this historical past of accomplishment, it could be a good query to ask, “In terms of public land, how a lot is sufficient? Ought to we cease setting apart extra land for the long run and relaxation on our laurels?” My reply is an unequivocal “No!”
Regardless of what we now have carried out, we want extra public land for a easy purpose. Folks! Over 21.5 million of them. That’s Florida’s inhabitants in response to the 2020 census, making us the third most populous state within the nation. In terms of public land, it’s not simply the variety of acres which were put aside, but additionally how many individuals try to entry these fantastic landscapes. Our 9.6 million acres of public land ranks 14th within the nation, but it surely’s a distinct story should you take into account that land on a per capita foundation. In Florida, should you divide the acres by our inhabitants it ends in every resident having about 0.4 acres of public land! That makes us #26 within the nation by way of acres of public land per resident.
The states which have extra public land per individual are usually not simply these within the western U.S., which is thought for its wide-open areas. Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Vermont and New York all have a extra favorable ratio of acres of public lands per individual. It’s much more regarding to be taught that, not like the nation, Florida’s inhabitants is rising at about 1% a 12 months, or about 1,000 residents per day. Whereas quite a few states have steady or declining populations, Florida’s inhabitants progress means we should share our restricted public lands with an increasing number of individuals yearly — all vying for leisure area of their favourite locations. Don’t neglect concerning the 130 million guests we now have yearly, a lot of whom additionally wish to see the actual Florida; you get the image.
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The inflow of residents and guests concurrently will increase the necessity for extra public lands and challenges the mission to guard the land. As actual property costs skyrocket, discovering ample funding for conservation lands turns into an increasing number of tough. Authorities alone is not going to get the job carried out. It’ll require a partnership between the federal government, the generosity of personal landowners, and the onerous work of organizations devoted to the mission of land conservation.
I’m proud to serve on the board of administrators for what I believe is one of the best land belief group within the State: Conservation Florida. We’re a land conservancy based by Floridians with a statewide service space devoted to working with all events, private and non-private, to guard Florida’s most essential landscapes. We’d like extra Floridians to affix us in our mission in order that collectively we are able to preserve our pure areas and add to our public lands: for our residents, our guests, and our future.
Kipp Frohlich was a wildlife biologist for 35 years for the State of Florida and now serves on the board of administrators for Conservation Florida, a statewide accredited land conservancy working to preserve Florida’s water, wildlife, wild locations and shield the Florida Wildlife Hall.